The task to design a new Community Centre following the Christchurch earthquakes of 2011 led us to question existing assumptions of construction. We wondered what a new super lean, sustainable and inspiring architecture for Christchurch might look like?
Many weeks were spent researching, walking, sketching and absorbing the context of the estuary to learn from nature’s architecture. Crustaceans such as bivalve inspired us to design a strong lightweight shell architecture that could safely embrace the community living on the hills and re-orientate the building north to the sun and uplift it to enjoy the daily rhythms of the estuary. We decided to explore the sustainable potentials of engineered timber together with the innovation of 3D digital prefabrication. Shell architecture is extremely light and provides the ductile strength necessary to resist earthquakes with minimal material. The building shell is fabricated from 45mm thick triangular billets of cross banded LVL by Nelson Pine. A 25 year old pine tree produces 1m3 of LVL. The building required approximately 110m3 of LVL equivalent to 1/3 hectare (1/3 of a rugby field). The project was modeled using 3D CAD software and directly fabricated directly from the computer file using XLAM's CNC bridge saw. This led to an accuracy of 3mm over 30 meters (kitchen joinery tolerances). Prototypes were essential to the design process, models were fabricated and tested throughout the process including a full scale 1:1 to ensure structure and critical details performed as required.
Credits: Alistair Cattanach Dunning Thornton Consultants, Patrick Arnold eCubed Building Workshop, Earl Rutherford MMOTM Architects